Whether you’re only considering becoming a nurse or you’ve already started in on your educational requirements, you probably already know that it takes hard work and dedication to pass your classes and learn everything you need to know. You need both theoretical and practical knowledge, along with compassion and patience.

Beyond that, though, you will need to pass certain exams. These exams were created to ensure that new nurses have all the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. After all, as a nurse, you’ll be responsible for people during a very vulnerable point in their lives.

One exam you’ll need to pass before you can become an RN or PN is the NCLEX. But what is it, exactly, and how can you prep for it?

What Is the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN)?

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is a standardized examination that all prospective nurses must pass in the United States. There is a version for LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses) and RNs (Registered Nurses).

Once a student has earned their nursing degree, they must take the exam before becoming licensed. Going beyond simply testing a candidate’s medical knowledge and nursing basics that every graduate should know, the NCLEX also tests a candidate’s critical thinking skills. Nursing is a high-pressure job that requires quick decision-making, and it is important for new nurses to have a strong critical thinking foundation.

In addition to passing the appropriate NCLEX, nurses must also be licensed in the state where they intend to work. Many states are part of an agreement that allows licensed nurses to practice in multiple states, however.

NCLEX Requirements

You need to meet certain requirements before you will even be able to register for the NCLEX. At a minimum, you need to have completed your nursing education program, whether that was an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, or a master’s degree.

The version of the test you will need to take will depend on your degree and the type of certification you are pursuing. LPNs take care of more basic tasks than RNs.

Each state also has different requirements before you can register for the NCLEX. Some require a background check or specific educational models for nursing programs. It is a good idea to check into the requirements before you apply to nursing school, if possible.

NCLEX Preparation & Study Tips

After putting so much effort into getting your nursing degree, the last thing you want is to falter during the licensure process and have to take the exam again. Passing the NCLEX is important and there’s a lot of pressure that goes along with it. It’s important to take the exam seriously, but you also need to maintain your mental health and well-being as you prepare.

There are lots of resources and tools out there to help you prepare for the NCLEX. You will need to block off a lot of time to study—many people spend up to eight hours a day for this between graduation and taking the exam.

It’s important not to procrastinate so that you have time to properly prepare. Using NCLEX study guides and practice tests will help you create a study plan that will help you pass when it’s finally time to take the real test.

Because the NCLEX is required for all nurses, it should not be hard to find study materials that work for you. Everyone has a different learning style and some study guides might work for some people better than ever. Do some research and find the materials that work for you.

Take care of yourself during test prep. Eat healthy food, drink lots of water, and make time for breaks and exercise. You should also prioritize sleep—you’ll retain information better and your study hours will be more productive.

Pro Tip: Destress Before the Big Day

Study guides are all well and good, but they won’t help you get in the right frame of mind for the test. Going into the test all stressed out from your studying can lead to problems like causing you to freeze up, panic, or forget crucial information. Stress management will be key when you’re a working nurse, so it’s a good idea to practice by engaging in self-care before the big day.

Before the big day, take some time to relax. Spend some time with friends and family or settle in with a good book. Take a long walk or a bath. Sit and meditate or do some yoga. Whatever helps you relax will reduce your stress and help you go into the test refreshed and confident!

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